Can Utilities Actually Embrace Smart Grid Technologies?
With advancements in technologies, like the implementation of smart meters, utilities are progressively collecting and using more data than ever before. Unlike years ago when utilities primarily collected usage and outage data, some utilities now collect, voltages, tampering, and diagnostic data as well. The issue now lies with analyzing, delivering, and managing that electricity-related data.
As more utilities adopt the usage of smart grids, they start collecting more hourly, even real-time, data at the household level. This monitoring creates hundreds of thousands of new datasets that all need to be collected, analyzed, and integrated.
There has been a lot of debate and buzz surrounding smart grid technologies, Congressman Jerry McNerney recently introduced the U.S. Smart Grid Advancement Act that aims to create a more efficient electrical grid by reducing energy usage during peak demand times. The Act came on the heels of a Department of Energy (DOE) report that found investment in smart grid technology has resulted in nearly $7 billion USD in economic output and the creation of 47,000 new jobs.
What does this mean for utilities?
Much of the electricity consumption in the U.S. is concentrated to a few peak hours throughout the year, mainly during the hot summer days. This demand puts considerable strain on the grid, increasing the risk of blackouts and accidental drops in voltage. It also raises the year-round price of power for consumers significantly. With the implementation of the smart grid, utilities will be able to collect more information and better manage data during times of peak demand. This could considerably reduce production costs, lower the risk of power outages, and significantly increase the reliability of the grid.
The figure below shows NYISO capacity and real-time load data from January to June of this year. As illustrated by the red line, NYISO’s all-time peak load was almost 34,000 MW, only about 4000 MW away from total capacity. New smart grid technology will allow ISOs like NYISO to manage load better and avoid potentially severe outages.
Increasing reliability and lowering the risk of blackouts is among the top issues for many utilities since blackouts can have a devastating blow financially (U.S. DOE). According to a U.S. DOE report the estimate of the total costs caused by the August 14, 2003, blackout was between $4-$10 billion USD and affected people in both Canada and the USA.
A recent survey by Zpryme found that out of 260 utility industry executives across the Smart Grid industry, 29% consider the top utility challenge addressed by data analytics is “power outage analysis” and that 47% believe utilities are not prepared to handle the “data explosion from smart grid technologies.”
This executive survey data also showed:
- 48% of executives believe that “distribution systems” are the utility system to benefit most from data (To read more about distributed energy systems, see our InDepth article, Distributed Energy Markets: A Brave New World for Traditional Utilities.)
- 35% of executives consider “benchmarks” the most important for industry wide application
- 47% of executives say that “detecting outages and faults” is the highest concern for outage data analytics
Although there are many new opportunities that the smart grid has to offer, there are still major public issues being raised about high installation costs, health, and public privacy. According to a local Massachusetts newspaper, some people are worried that the increased wireless signals that broadcast from these smart meters are potentially dangerous to people’s health and others don’t like the fact that all of this new personal data is being collected and feel it is a breach of the privacy rights.
From a utility standpoint, some are skeptical that they will be able to properly store, manage, and use this massive amount of new data collected (Zpryme). They will have to invest money to implement new system and change their current operating processes to be able to convert this data into useful market information.
Our data management software, the ZEMA Suite, offers businesses the ability to collect data in real-time, to meet these new data challenges. To learn how ZE can help make sense of your data issues, analyses, and integration, contact us now.